Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Issues with meat processing availability as local demand increases

This USDA-ERS report, Slaughter and Processing Options and Issues for Locally Sourced Meat, (, points out what we have seen for some time - the lack of ‘local’ animal processing capabilities. This has become more of an issue as the trend to local food increases. An important point made in the report is whether a local facility can be viable when taking into account potential inconsistency in supply and the difficulty of determining actual consumer demand. Not discussed to any great extent are the regulatory challenges.

Demand for locally sourced meats has increased in recent years, although it remains a small share of total demand. This report evaluates the availability of slaughter and processing facilities for local meat production and the extent to which these may constrain or support growth in demand for locally sourced meats. Types, number, location, and other salient characteristics of slaughter and processing facilities are outlined by State. Further disaggregation of facilities by capacity and annual volume by species also provides information on slaughter and processing options for local meat producer/marketers. Findings suggest that access to Federal or State-inspected slaughter and processing facilities is limited in some parts of the country. In addition, alternative small-scale slaughter and processing facilities may not be economically feasible in all areas due to a lack of consistent throughput. Alternative methods for slaughter and processing geared toward local markets—such as the use of mobile slaughter units (MSUs) and local and regional market aggregators—can help meet some of the need for increased slaughter and processing capacity in localized areas and enable the growth of small livestock producers marketing product to consumers in their region or community. However, growth in small-scale slaughter and processing facilities depends on whether producers in need of these services can provide enough throughput, for enough of the year, and pay a high enough fee for the services to make such facilities economically viable. This, in turn, depends on the strength of consumer demand for local meats in the coming years.

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